I recently came across a recipe for fruit leather made in a dehydrator and found myself sighing a lusty sigh. With recipes like this catching my eye and summer produce just around the corner, the lure of the food dehydrator is becoming harder to resist. Do you own one?
I'd always imagined food dehydrators as big hulking things that would take up acres of counter space and then be impossible to store in a cupboard. Not so! Most models are roughly 12 inches in diameter, about the size of a rice cooker or a small crockpot. This is definitely a good size for both using and storing.
Dehydrators contain several stacked trays, not unlike bamboo steamer baskets. Heated air flows through all the layers and dries food evenly. An adjustable thermostat controls the temperature, and you can dehydrate slices of fruit, vegetables, herbs, or even meat to make jerky.
These little gadgets are much more efficient than using an oven in terms of both time and energy. You can also adjust and maintain the temperature of a dehydrator much more precisely, important for low-temperature drying and preserving vitamins and minerals in the food.
The one thing I wonder is how often I'll really use a dehydrator. I worry that it will just sit in the cupboard for months between use. Or maybe once I have one, I'll find myself using it all the time. It's hard to predict.
Dehydrators run from about $40 to about $60, though you can certainly find more expensive professional models if you're so inclined. Take a look at these models:
• Nesco 700-Watt Food Dehydrator, $60 from Amazon
• Ronco 5-Tray Dehydrator, $40 from Target
• Excalibur Economy Series Four-Tray Dehydrator, $106 from Harvest Essentials
Do you have a food dehydrator? How often do you use it?
Related: Good Question: What Do I Do With a Dehydrator?